Steve's Reviews > The Best Horror of the Year Volume Three

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Three by Ellen Datlow
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Jul 17, 11

bookshelves: fiction, horror
Read from July 10 to 17, 2011

I almost didn't pick this up, because I had already read about a third of the stories elsewhere. The good news is that all of those stories are well worth reading again. As an entry in an ongoing series, I feel (so far) that this is Datlow's strongest effort yet. The overall quality is terrific, so much so that Datlow had the luxury (I feel) of story placement, kinds of stories, etc. In other words, Volume 3 is a superior collection of horror, every bit as good if not better as Jones' annual effort, but with way better cover art. A few comments on the individual stories below:

The Riding School, by Cody Goodfellow. Good kick-off story for the collection, involving an exclusive school for girls, and their interesting mounts.

Mr. Pigsny, by Reggie Oliver. Part of this story struck me as being a bit too proper & British in tone. But hold on until the end, and you will see the heart of darkness. Excellent.

City of the Dog, by John Langan. I'm up and down on Langan (I'm still trying to figure out what the hell was going on in his story, "The Shallows," from "Cthulu Reigns" collection), but concede that he's among the most literary of current horror writers. And that's not a negative comment. This one works, and works well. A college student with girlfriend problems. I was impressed with Langan's insights into jealousy, and how he integrated it into his overall Horror.

Just Outside Our Windows, Deep Inside Our Walls, by Brian Hodge. A Bad Seed story. Hodge explores the terrifying world of a child's overactive imagination. Well done.

Lesser Demons, by Norman Partridge. Endtimes, the Undead, and shotguns. As American as apple pie. I really liked this, but I'm shallow that way.

When the Zombies Win, by Karina Sumner-Smith. To be honest, I'm getting a bit tired of zombies. That said, this worked well enough. It's short, and I believe is meant as a "pause" story for the collection as a whole.

--3--, by Laird Barron. I'm on record as far declaring this guy as being the best in the business. And there's nothing here to suggest otherwise. A filmed experiment, and a failed relationship, gone bad. Datlow's ongoing role in championing Barron is significant and important (if you care about the genre).

Fallen Boys, by Mark Morris. A somewhat traditional ghost story that takes place in a mine. Well written, but also "Meh."

Was She Wicked? Was She Good?, by M. Rickert. Sort of a Bad Seed story, but the parents are even more annoying. More of a dark fanstasy than horror, but well done.

The Fear, by Richard Harland. Harland can write, but I would of liked to have seen this extended into something longer. A famed horror movie director, his "lost" film, his actors, and his fans.

Till the Morning Comes, by Stephen Graham Jones. Jones takes familiar stuff (children, dark places, nightmares) and makes it new. This is really well done. Kind of reminded me of early King (you know, the good stuff).

Shomer, by Glenn Hirschberg. It's not scary.

Oh I Do Like to Beside the Seaside, by Christopher Fowler. I read an earlier seaside story by Fowler, and it was outstanding. More of the same here. Gritty portrayal of seaside denizens at an arcade. One of the best stories in the collection.

The Obscure Bird, by Nicholas Royle. He's kind of like Langan for me. I see the talent, but his stories don't always click for me. This one does. Also one of the best in the collection. A couple who need to talk -- and owl pellets. I'll say no more.

Transfiguration, by Richard Christian Matheson. Ice Road Truckers meets Silence of the Lambs. One of the best stories in the collection. Maybe even the best. Nothing really new here (except for perhaps the setting), but it's the telling here that counts.

The Days of Flaming Motorcycles, by Catherynne Valente. Zombies. I'm tired of zombies, so I didn't read it. It may be good, but that's where I'm at right now.

The Folding Man, by Joe Lansdale. Nun like creatures let something loose on a bunch of mouthy teenagers in what must be an ultimate case of road rage. Nasty and fun. Another candidate for the best story in the collection. Outstanding in every way.

Just Another Desert Night w/ Blood, by Joe Pulver. Not really a story, more like a prose poem filled w/ dark imagery. The author confesses at the end that he was sort of channeling Neko Case. Knowing that going in won't hurt the reading of the story.

Black and White Sky, by Tanith Lee. End of the Worlder (or England at least) w/ birds. Sort of reminded me of 28 Days later with bird shit. Pretty good, but I did have some questions. Well written.

At Night, When the Demons Come, by Ray Cluley. End of Worlder w/ demons. I think I liked this better than Lee's effort because it had guns and cussing.

The Revel, by John Langan. Very unusual for an author to have two stories in an anthology (whatever the genre). But here I'm glad of Datlow's decision. Very creative werewolf story, that takes big chances. Not everyone will like this, but those that do will probably agree with me.











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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Thanks for the review, Steve. I found it very helpful!


Steve Thank you, Danielle!


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